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Barcelona: Lower Your Hopes to "Moderate"

t
teezeetoo Jan 26, 2013 06:22 AM

I like tapas: as spouse and I age, we eat less, like to try more small things, and like the rhythm of grazing. I love Washington Square: it's got room for old people like us, but also lots of energetic young people, from college students to families and many nice walkable options for us. I hate empty storefronts in the Square so we watched with happy anticipation as Barcelona reconstructed the space on Beacon Street. We gave them a few weeks to settle in and tried it last week. Here are the good things: the room is attractive, the staff are trying hard to please, the menu is broad and the wine list isn't bad. Unfortunately, the food isn't special. To be fair, we tried five items from a large menu and maybe we'll go back to graze some more. But what we tried seemed reasonably representative: spinach and chickpeas small tapas (nice enough but not memorable), octopus (the star, very well made with good smoky flavor and not rubbery at all), mussels (a "large tapas" which was overpriced and underseasoned though billed as "diablo"), roasted bone marrow which was close to inedible (bad choice of a thready bone with little marrow and that buried beneath bone strand) and churros with chocolate (excellent churros, bland chocolate). Again, to be fair, it was obvious to the server that the bone marrow was a flop and they removed it from the bill, a nice gesture. They clearly want to make a place for themselves with residents: if you are local, you get a resident card which is good for a free tapa on your next visit. We love the concept: but the execution will have to improve.

  1. a
    addiez May 1, 2013 06:48 AM

    Having lived in Spain, I'm always excited for a new tapas restaurant. That being said, Barcelona came in as very hot and cold.

    Service at the beginning was great. My DC had the red sangria, I had the white. Go for the red - the white is far too sweet.

    Three of the tapas we ordered (of five) came out in less than 10 minutes. The tortilla espanola - my favorite Spanish dish - was great. The sour cream accompaniment compared to the traditional aioli was a big heavy, but worked. The eggplant caponata was absolutely delicious - well caramelized with flavors that melded well. The beef empanadas were SO SO salty. Definitely skip those.

    We then waited about 25 minutes for our last two tapas. Which fiiiinally came out. The meatball in tomato sauce were great, although the grind of the meat was a bit coarse for my liking. The asparagus with an egg was our favorite course of the night. Well cooked, and the egg added something delicious.

    Dessert was pleasant. We had the chocolate hazelnut indulgence, which unfortunately had no hazelnut taste. The chocolate part was great though.

    4 Replies
    1. re: addiez
      BigFatDynamo May 1, 2013 04:31 PM

      Hey Addiez, I noted that you lived in Spain, and thought you may be a good resource for my quest to find a reasonably authentic place in Mass. My wife and I really liked Flan y Ajo in Providence, and appreciate what a hole in the wall it is. The food was good, and struck me as being pretty darn close to the real thing. Do you have any recommendations for places in Mass (I live near Lowell, but will travel) that are more like the real mccoy? I don't really care if it's an incredible gastronomic experience... as long as there's wine and simple food, I'd be happy.

      1. re: BigFatDynamo
        a
        addiez May 2, 2013 10:49 AM

        I LOVE Flan y Ajo. I had an amazing experience there! If only there was somewhere like that a bit further north.

        I've been to Taberna de Haro, Tasca, Toro, Estragon, Las Ventas (Estragon's counter take-out neighbor), Kika, Barcelona, and Dali.

        I think Dali is a bit kitschy - fun, good food, but oddly reminiscent of what I imagine Epcot's Spain restaurant would be like.

        I really loved Las Ventas - there aren't really any seats, but they make delicious Spanish sandwiches you can take elsewhere if you like that kind of thing.

        I think the most authentic Spanish food I've eaten in the area was at Estragon. Taberna de Haro wasn't bad either!

        I'd love to learn more about Spanish restaurants outside of Boston/Brookline/Cambridge/Somerville - have you been to any?

        1. re: addiez
          t
          teezeetoo May 2, 2013 12:28 PM

          I'd have to agree that Estragon is closest to my favorites from Spain and Taberna next (love the wine list at Taberna but the food varies quite a bit) - Paco Meralgo is my favorite in Barcelona and probably Can Gaig for seafood - makes me hungry to go back soon - I love Barcelona.

      2. re: addiez
        c
        Cachetes Jul 2, 2013 06:49 PM

        Hot and cold is a great way to describe Barcelona. The service was friendly and relaxed at the beginning, and then trailed off to simply adequate by the end (our original waiter disappeared to work with other tables, and we were treated to a succession of servers after that). The food, too, was hot and cold. The highpoints were that delicious eggplant caponata that you mention (great flavors, and I really like that the red pepper and eggplant still were relatively firm - they kept their distinct textures), as well as a white gazpacho that I would go back for - it was both warmly nutty and tartly crisp, very delicious. The risotto was fine, though largely due to a flavorful goat cheese on top. And the flounder was forgettable - not bad, simply meh.

        All said, I would go back, at the very least for that gazpacho.

      3. c
        cookfood Jan 27, 2013 03:24 PM

        that's to bad, ive been to several in CT and have enjoyed the food and wine.
        i went for an after work drink with some co workers, got there on the early side and had good food and drinks-it does get a little pricey. i would recommend it-i think its a good place for the area.
        we left at 7 and there was barely room to walk out of the place-not that that means its good, it just means people want to try it :)

        1. StriperGuy Jan 26, 2013 10:03 AM

          With a name like Barcelona you are setting the expectations pretty high...

          1. C. Hamster Jan 26, 2013 06:31 AM

            My SIL lives right around the corner and has been several times and says its pretty meh. Too bad.

            2 Replies
            1. re: C. Hamster
              hotoynoodle Jan 26, 2013 06:33 AM

              phooey. had planned a visit next week. guess i'll wait a bit longer. does it seem these are training wheel issues, or an issue of bland chain food?

              1. re: hotoynoodle
                t
                teezeetoo Jan 26, 2013 12:31 PM

                I'd have to say my best guess is the problem is homogenized chain food - the staff is clearly well-trained so it isn't the front of the house that fell short. Have to think it's a "paint by numbers" kitchen that is the problem.

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